Archive for Rastafarians

The True Story of Rastafari

Posted in Rastafarians, The Melodians with tags , on January 18, 2017 by 1960s: Days of Rage

A mural of Leonard Howell in Tredegar Park, near where the first Rastafari community was formed in the 1930s, Spanish Town, Jamaica, January 4, 2014
“In the postcard view of Jamaica, Bob Marley casts a long shadow. Though he’s been dead for thirty-five years, the legendary reggae musician is easily the most recognizable Jamaican in the world—the primary figure in a global brand often associated with protest music, laid-back, ‘One Love’ positivity, and a pot-smoking counterculture. And since Marley was an adherent of Rastafari, the social and spiritual movement that began in this Caribbean island nation in the 1930s, his music—and reggae more generally—have in many ways come to be synonymous with Rastafari in the popular imagination. For Jamaica’s leaders, Rastafari has been an important aspect of the country’s global brand. Struggling with sky-high unemployment, vast inequality, and extreme poverty (crippling debt burdens from IMF agreements haven’t helped the situation), they have relied on Brand Jamaica—the government’s explicit marketing push, beginning in the 1960s—to attract tourist dollars and foreign investment to the island. The government-backed tourist industry has long encouraged visitors to Come to Jamaica and feel all right; and in 2015, the country decriminalized marijuana—creating a further draw for foreigners seeking an authentic Jamaican experience. …”

“Rastafari is a religion which developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930. Its adherents worship him in much the same way as Jesus in his Second Advent, or as God the Son. Members of the Rastafari way of life are known as Rastafari, Rastas, or simply Ras. Rastafari are also known by their official church titles, such as Elder or High Priest. The way of life is sometimes referred to as ‘Rastafarianism’, but this term is considered offensive by most Rastafari, who, being critical of ‘isms’ or ‘ians’ (which they see as a typical part of ‘Babylon’ culture), dislike being labelled as an ‘ism’ or ‘ian’ themselves. Rastafari has always been conceived as a way of life for and by people of African descent. The name Rastafari is taken from Ras Tafari, the title (Ras) and first name (Tafari Makonnen) of Haile Selassie I before his coronation. In Amharic, Ras, literally ‘head’, is an Ethiopian title equivalent to prince or chief, while the personal given name Täfäri (teferi) means one who is revered. Yah (יה in Hebrew) is a Biblical name of God, from a shortened form of Jahweh or Yahuah found in Psalms 68:4 in the King James Version of the Bible and many other places in the Bible. … Many elements of Rastafari reflect its origins in Jamaica along with Ethiopian culture. …”


“Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., ONH (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940), was a Jamaican political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a proponent of the Pan-Africanism movement, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). He also founded the Black Star Line, a shipping and passenger line which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands. Prior to the 20th century, leaders such as Prince Hall, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and Henry Highland Garnet advocated the involvement of the African diaspora in African affairs. Garvey was unique in advancing a Pan-African philosophy to inspire a global mass movement and economic empowerment focusing on Africa known as Garveyism. Promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, Garveyism would eventually inspire others, ranging from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement (some sects of which proclaim Garvey as a prophet.) Garveyism intended persons of African ancestry in the diaspora to ‘redeem’ the nations of Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave the continent. …”
W – Marcus Garvey


“The Rastafari Movement in the United States is the Rastafari Movement, founded in Jamaica, manifestation in the United States. … Marcus Garvey, a native Jamaican, speaking on the topic of the creation of an African state for displaced Africans, told his followers to ‘look to the East Africa, for the crowning of the Black King.’ This was also to influence the minds of the masses of black people from continuing to worship King George of England. Marcus Mosiah Garvey was referring to Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, the only remaining African Monarch of Biblical ancestry. However, some found a more literal interpretation. … The movement has had strong cultural, social, and political effects on both Ethiopia and Jamaica, but to date, little scholarly research has been done on the effects of the movement on the United States of America. But this is not to say that such influences and affections do not exist in America, which many Rastafari see as the epitome of Babylon, and the hearth of all evil in the world. … Reggae was known in Jamaica as a popular dance move until 1968, when the Toots & the Maytals released their single ‘Do the Reggay‘. From this point on, Reggae referred to a genre of music centered on a steady and regular beat played on a rhythm guitar, called the ‘bang’, and biblical lyrics pertaining to Rastafari ideology. In Jamaica and around the world, reggae, and especially the music of Bob Marley, was used as a medium to bring about social and political change. …”
W – The Rastafari Movement in the United States

YouTube: The Maytals – Do The Reggay

Sugar Minott – Black Roots (1980)

Posted in Rastafarians, Sugar Minott with tags , on February 24, 2014 by 1960s: Days of Rage

Sugar Minott - Black Roots (1980)
“Recorded for Island’s Mango label in 1979, Black Roots is among Sugar Minott’s earlier solo efforts and is also among the best albums that the Jamaican singer ever recorded. Black Roots isn’t an album to acquire if you’re looking for slickness; Minott favors simplicity throughout this LP, which often recalls the northern soul and sweet soul of the ’60s. If you combined Stax’s raw production style with the type of sweetness that characterized a lot of Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia soul and added a reggae beat, the outcome might sound something like Black Roots. You’d also have to add Rasta-oriented lyrics because most of Black Roots reflects Minott’s Rastafarian beliefs and is extremely sociopolitical — this is true of the single ‘Hard Time Pressure,’ as well as ‘Mr. Babylon Man,’ ‘Oppressors Oppression,’ ‘River Jordan,’ and the title song. Minott went on to record many more albums in the ’80s and ’90s, but he never sounded better than he does on Black Roots.”

Black Roots is a 1979 album by Sugar Minott. It was the first to appear on Minott’s Black Roots label, and was described in the book Reggae: 100 Essential CDs – The Rough Guide as a ‘classic, which catches the singer on the cusp of the roots and dancehall phases, and with total control over his music.’ The album includes contributions from some of Jamaica’s top session musicians including Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Noel ‘Scully’ Simms, Eric ‘Bingy Bunny’ Lamont, Gladstone Anderson and Ansell Collins, with harmony vocals provided by Don Carlos, Lacksley Castell and Ashanti Waugh. …”

YouTube: Mankind, Hard Time Pressure, River Jordan, Jail House, I’m Gonna Hold On, Oppressors Oppression, Two Time Loser, Black Roots, Clean Runnings, Mr Babylon Man

Israel Vibration – The Same Song (1978)

Posted in Dub, Israel Vibration, Rastafarians, Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar, Studio One with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2014 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“One of the most exciting debuts of the roots era, Same Song boasted the cream of Jamaican musicianship backing the vocal trio, including Sly & Robbie, Augustus Pablo, Mikey Chung, and Ansel Collins. Producer Tommy Cowan took special care with this record and insured that the all-star cast never overwhelmed the vocalists. This was a real danger, as Israel Vibrations were far from the most powerful of singers. Other vocal groups of the day could easily hold their own in the midst of the deepest roots and dub, but the Vibes needed sympathetic arrangements to best showcase their unique sound. In fact, it was their very vocal vulnerability that was the trio’s appeal. The almost reedy quality of the Vibes’ singing, the feeling that they were struggling just to gather the strength to even reach this paltry level of vocal thrust, was part of the charm. The group’s actual physical disabilities just made their stylings all the more poignant. It was Same Song’s Rastafarian themes and the trio’s obvious religious devotion which made this such a cultural classic, even if the album doesn’t have that almost melancholy quality of the Abyssinians, nor the righteousness and fire of Burning Spear or Black Uhuru. Instead, the Vibes brought an almost child-like quality to roots, a naïveté hither unknown in what was otherwise a streetwise genre. The very simplicity and straightforwardness of the lyrics reinforces this feeling. The Vibes message of ‘Why Worry’ sums up their personal philosophy of finding answers, hope, and salvation through prayer. The title track, a real charmer and hit to boot, insists that ‘we’re all going to sing the same song,’ but their fervid delivery gives even this seeming platitude real power. Even when presented with the brutality of life, as on ‘Licks and Kicks,’ the album’s only true political song, the trio still attribute the violence that inspired the song to Jah’s will. One comes away from the album convinced that the trio have entrusted themselves to Jah, and, with that, all of life’s complexities have fallen away. The meek shall inherit the earth, the Bible states, but as the Vibes prove, the meek aren’t necessarily voiceless victims, and even the meekest amongst them can, in the right setting, be the loudest. Same Song is a shout of belief, so heartfelt, as to quiet all else around it.”

YouTube: The Same Song
01 – The Same Song 02 – Weep And Mourn 03 – Walk The Streets Of Glory 04 – Ball Of Fire 05 – I’ll Go Through 06 – Why Worry 07 – Lift Up Your Conscience 08 – Prophet Has Arise 09 – Jah Time Has Come 10 – Licks And Kicks 11 – Crisis 12 -Crisis Dub

Burning Spear – Social Living (1978)

Posted in Burning Spear, Dub, Rastafarians, Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar with tags , , , , on January 30, 2014 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“Burning Spear’s seventh album was originally released in the U.K. by Island in 1978 and has always been difficult to find in the U.S. Blood and Fire’s reissue makes it possible for average American reggae fans to hear what they’ve been missing, and it turns out that’s quite a lot. Social Living picks up where the third Burning Spear LP, Marcus Garvey, left off — more slow, dark songs about slavery, repatriation, and, of course, Garvey himself (four of the nine songs have his name in their titles). There are still no real tunes to speak of, just immensely dense grooves that thud and rumble along slowly and relentlessly to the accompaniment of distant horns and rattling nyahbinghi percussion. If this 2003 remaster edges out the original Island release in any way, it’s in the mix: Island toned down Social Living (aka Marcus’ Children) a bit to appeal to British audiences, but the Blood and Fire version absolutely throbs with bass and echoes like drums heard across vast distances. In this context, when Winston Rodney sings that ‘Jah no dead’ it’s impossible not to believe him; when he instructs you in the specifics of ‘Social Living,’ you find yourself submitting to his instruction. It’s that kind of album.”

Soundcloud: Social Living (Video)

YouTube: Social Living, Mr Garvey, Marcus Children Suffer, Civilized Reggae, Come, Institution

YouTube: “Institution” Live 1981, Rockpalast

Little Roy – Bongo Nyah (1969)

Posted in Clive Chin, Randy's Records, Rastafarians, Ska with tags , , , on December 13, 2013 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“By the mid-’70s, Rastafarian themes were becoming ever more prevalent, but back in 1969 they were decidedly unique and not overly popular. ‘Bongo Nyah,’ however, broke that mold, one of the first to not merely contain an overt Rasta message, but to take it to the top of the Jamaican chart. Unlike the other brethren then on the scene, Earl ‘Little Roy’ Lowe doesn’t even bother to veil his lyrics, although he lulls listeners into a false sense of security by kicking off with a couple of lines from the nursery rhyme ‘Bah Bah Black Sheep.’ From there, he and backing singer Donovan Carless dive straight into dread waters, consigning unbelievers to burn in the fire and demanding to know how they can resist Jah when they have bald heads. Set to an irrepressibly bouncy reggae rhythm, delivered up with gusto by the Hippy Boys while Lloyd Charmers’ organ gaily tinkles out like church bells or even a child’s music box, ‘Bongo’ was irresistible. Overseen by producer Lloyd Daley, this was to be his Matador label’s biggest hit of the year, and deservedly so.”

YouTube: Bongo nyah

John Holt – Police in Helicopter (1983)

Posted in John Holt, Rastafarians, Uncategorized with tags , on December 11, 2013 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“John Holt, both as a member of the Paragons and as a solo artist, had established himself as the master of pop with a multitude of love, love lost, and other typically pop-themed hit singles. However, with Police in Helicopter, the singer reinvented himself as a more contemporary, cultural artist. The title track, a Jamaican smash, set the defiant tone, threatening, ‘If you continue to burn up the herbs, we’re going to burn down the cane fields.’ ‘Last Train From the Ghetto’ and ‘Reality’ are cultural/Rastafarian statements of intent, while ‘I Got Caught’ is a warning about the consequences of misdeeds. The Roots Radics provide the rootsy accompaniment, with producer Henry “Junjo” Lawes adding his signature deep roots/dubby production, with that sublime tinge of dancehall which gave the record a totally contemporary sound. Of course, Holt didn’t totally break with his past, and the rest of the record contains lighter-themed material. … The album is a masterpiece of aural illusion, as the band slide out the fat rhythms and reggae riffs, and Lawes transforms them before our eyes. Deep roots with a twist, wave a wand and, abracadabra, Holt’s songs are no longer considered MOR pop, but now appeal to a more serious audience. Police is a true classic album on which a great vocalist and songwriter comes of age.”

YouTube: Police in Helicopter, Fat She Fat, Last Train From The Ghetto

Prince Alla – Only Love Can Conquer (1976-1979)

Posted in Prince Alla, Rastafarians, Riddims with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2013 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“This collection of singles by the relatively obscure roots-reggae singer Prince Alla (backed by the Soul Syndicate, the preeminent reggae studio band of the seventies) is a revelation. Imagine someone with the tone of a young Johnnie Clarke and the expressiveness of Sugar Minott at his best, and then take away the lover’s rock and you’ve got Prince Alla: an angel’s voice with an apocalyptic edge. If you want a good distillation of the Rastafarian message, look no further. It’s all here, from the condemnation of materialism (‘They Never Love,’ complete with a dub version) to the unapologetic sexism (‘Lot’s Wife,’ ‘Lady Deceiver’) and the political rabble-rousing (‘Youthman in the Ghetto’). Through it all, the Soul Syndicate burns with a thick, slow one-drop groove that never lets up the pressure. If you don’t own this disc, repent now.”

“A superb set showcasing the vocal talents of Prince Alla, the archetypal roots singer and ghetto sufferer. Voiced and mixed at King Tubby’s studio by Scientist (who also contributes a couple of extended dub mixes) and Tubby himself. This compilation includes the original vocal cuts of ‘Stone’, ‘Lot’s Wife’ and ‘Bucket Bottom’ which appeared in their dub versions on Freedom Sounds In Dub.”
Blood and Fire

YouTube: Lot’s Wife, Only Love Can Conquer, They Never Love, Lady Deceiver + Version, Youthman in the Ghetto (discomix), Stone, Black Rose (Stone Riddim), Bucket Bottom